Russia is whitewashing its role in WW2 - gov't official

An inconvenient truth: German and Soviet officers greet each other after the invasion of Poland. Public domain

Russia is resorting to disinformation to whitewash its negative role in World War II, Stanisław Żaryn, the spokesperson for Poland's special services coordinator, wrote in a Wednesday statement to PAP.

In his statement, Żaryn mentions anti-Polish accents during recent observations of the anniversary of the war's end in Moscow. Propaganda relating to the war's history, Żaryn writes, is an important part of Russia's strategy of influencing other countries in the interest of its own strategic goals.

Żaryn states that Russia is intent on whitewashing its role in the outbreak of the war and its criminal activity during the conflict, including the 1940 Katyn Forest Massacre of over 20,000 Polish POWs in western Russia. To this end, he observes, it is resorting to disinformation and false propaganda to shift part of the blame for the conflict on pre-war Poland.

Such moves, as well as attempts to sow discord among the EU and NATO countries, are also aimed at legitimising Russia's own imperial policy, Żaryn writes.

To reinforce his claims, Żaryn cites an article published by the western-based Moscow-friendly Strategic Culture Foundation, whose author, Canadian historian Michael Carley, supports Russian claims that Poland was allied with Nazi Germany prior to the war, and that the Soviet invasion of eastern Poland on September 17 1939 was necessary in view of Poland's 1920 annexation of Ukrainian and Belarusian territories.

In line with Russia's standpoint, Carley also blames Poland's wartime exile government in London for using the discovery of the Katyn massacre to disrupt the unity of the Allies, and criticises Warsaw for negating the Soviet Union's role in liberating Europe from the Nazis.

This, Żaryn observes, is an example of how Moscow attempts to influence western public opinion.

As another example of Russia's disinformation campaign, Żaryn cites attacks against the countries of Central and Eastern Europe by the Russian Council for Foreign Affairs, which claims their admission to the EU had a negative impact on the West's view of the history of World War II and on relations between the West and Russia.

Żaryn especially mentions an article published on the council's website, whose author states that Poland's protests regarding the history of World War II aim to conceal its negative role in the conflict, including the Polish population's aid in the Holocaust.

This, Żaryn writes, shows that Russia is attacking Poland by means of lies.

Żaryn also mentions Russian reactions to Poland's recent protests against the removal by Russian authorities of a commemorative plaque to victims of the Katyn Forest executions from a building in the Russian city of Tver. Żaryn notes that Russian media have described the plaque's removal as historically justified and have called Warsaw's response "hysterical".

Among other examples of Russia's false propaganda regarding World War II, Żaryn also cites an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which he accuses pre-war Poland of collaboration with Nazi Germany, among others in the 1938 occupation of Czechoslovakia's Zaolzie region. In the interview, Putin also plays down the role of the 1938 Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, and presents the USSR as the only country to stand up against Adolf Hitler.

"Putin's words constitute another element of a (...) campaign designed to whitewash the history of the USSR and distort that of World War II," Żaryn writes.